Superman 1 – the first comic devoted to a single character

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Superman 1 (Summer 1939), is the first DC Comic devoted to a single character.  The series as a whole would be the first ongoing comic devoted to new stories about a single character, but the first issue cannot quite be characterized that way.  Nor could the second issue.  Or even the third.

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There are only six pages of never-before published Siegel and Shuster material in this issue.  The rest of it consists of reprints of the Superman stories from the first few issues of Action Comics.  While that may seem odd to us, at this time the bulk of comic books were reprints of newspaper strips, so there was nothing unusual about it.

Superman 1 opens with a two page origin story, the most detailed origin of the character to date – and even still, it’s pretty sparse.  Superman is sent to Earth on a huge rocket from the exploding planet Krypton.  He is found by the Kents, of whom only the mother is named – and called Mary.  They drop him off at an orphanage where the baby tears the place apart.  The orphanage is more than happy to hand him back to the Kents.

Then the story covers his powers in a few panels – leaping, not flying, strength, speed and invulnerability (more or less – “nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin”).  The Kents die, and Clark begins his career as Superman.

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The book then goes on to reprint the first Superman tale, from Action Comics 1, but with four more pages from the start of the story.  In this, we see Superman confront nightclub singer Bea Carroll about her murder of Jack Kennedy.  An innocent man has been sentenced to the electric chair for the murder.  Superman gets the confession from Bea, and then streaks off.  From this point on, the story is the one from Action 1.

It is worth noting that the reprint did not bother to correct the colour errors from the first publishing.  Take a look at Superman’s boots in the panels above.  They are red, as they would usually be.

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But in the reprinted pages that follow, Superman’s boots are miscoloured blue, as they were in the story as published in Action Comics 1.

 

 

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